Music & Soundscapes

Local Featured Artists

Morgan Pennington And The Echo

"And The Echo is an Oxford original. The duo's sound is synth-pop. Their light show is spectacular and should not be missed. All of their videos are shot locally; students and residents alike flock to be seen. They draw a crowd of local followers every show they perform."  - Nicholas Carr

"Based out of Oxford, Mississippi, And The Echo is a project born out of a mutual love of ambient, electronic pop between Winn McElroy and Morgan Pennington. Begun in March 2014, a 45 was released in mid fall 2014, an EP in Spring 2016, and the duo [was] back in the studio November 2016 to begin recording their follow up album with a national tour beginning early 2017."

                          -And The Echo Bio

Auxford Wave

An Interview with Zoe McDonald - Auxford Wave
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Interviewee: Zoe McDonald 
 
Interviewers: Lana Ferguson, Martha Grace Lowry Mize, Nick Thompson, and Miller Meyers 
Occupation: Student, writer, journalist 
 
Place of Birth: Mississippi   
Time of Interview: Spring 2017 
Themes: Local bands; venues; 
auxfordwave.com; community of Oxford 

Abstract

Flowood native Zoe McDonald spent four years getting a journalism degree at the University of Mississippi. After becoming a lifestyles editor at The Daily Mississippian, she began covering the local music scene in Oxford, MS. Last spring, McDonald and two of her friends began auxfordwave.com to highlight and feature the music and venues in Oxford.

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Missing The Music

By Frances Barrett, Keerthi Chandrashekar & Hooper Schultz

Spring 2018

"After a semester of exploratory research on Oxford’s music scene, we uncovered both a wealth of recollected information of its recent history as well as a lack of documentation of these stories. One future avenue of research that could (and should) be explored is the economic relationship between the real estate market on the Square and the attrition of music venues, as pointed out by both Scott Berretta and Darren Grem. Venues such as the Hoka and the Gin have been torn down and replaced by mixed-use apartment buildings that are less likely to have music venues that are louder late at night, due to the interests of the tenants in the apartments above them. “In terms of just condo-ification [and] all the attendant businesses that typically get tapped into... condo and condo culture that... doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for places to start up,” as late night noise has become less desirable. “I think the rental situation particularly on the Square has gone through the roof and I think it’s hard to kind of set up spaces for music,” said Grem. He posits that the market lends itself to outside investors who can “set up a space and sell overpriced dresses ‘til kingdom come.”As the cost of running a business in downtown Oxford rises, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) licensing fees may be one of the only expendable business expenses for small venues that are struggling to survive. Venues that offer live music are required to pay an annual fee to secure the required ASCAP license.[1] The diminishing number of stages in Oxford that Darren Grem, Ron Shapiro, and Scott Barretta all describe may be, in part, a result of venues’ decisions to cut this additional cost.

 

Mississippi state alcohol laws and University of Mississippi’s policies related to alcohol and noise have significant effects on Oxford’s evolving music venue environment. For example, the Oxford music scene has shifted largely from campus to town. According to Scott Barretta, historically colleges were “a big part of the touring market.” In particular, “bands would get booked on campus as fraternity parties.” Changing campus attitudes towards party culture and alcohol consumption likely contributed to this shift. Ron Shapiro reflects, “The university cracked down on the frat parties on campus… In the ‘80s sometime. So, because of that, all the kids came to the Square.” We are interested in further exploration on how fraternity and sorority choices to protect members from alcohol law enforcement has led to more private, large parties on campus. Interviews with Greek Life members are difficult to collect because of the concerns the University has in terms of reputation as well as the private-public nature of the campus-affiliated greek organizations.

 

Additionally, we suspect that ongoing racial segregation through separate social spheres keeps African-American Oxonians and other people of color from the Square in larger groups. Although African-Americans make up almost 20% of the population in the City of Oxford and almost 40% of the population of the state, they are underrepresented as an observable group on the Square.[2] A directed survey on African American University of Mississippi students or on townspeople may be able to shed light on what spaces they’re utilizing for music. Where are their music performance and consumption spaces? Equally as important is understanding the reasons that they do not go to the Square. What draws them elsewhere and what combination of pressures creates that decision-making process?

         

 It is important to gather a broader history of music in Oxford and Lafayette county to understand what genres were being performed and which bands were coming out of Oxford in more prolific eras of the music scene. Lee Morgan mentions blues being a primarily black musical style, and pointedly asserts that blues was not always associated with towns such as Oxford.[3] Alternative rock and country seem to be popular musical attractions currently, but were they always? Understanding the major players and reconstructing a timeline of venue openings and closings will contextualize individual moments throughout the history of Oxford’s music scene, and shed light on the larger ebbs and flows. Examining the booking records of the still-active venues and recording studios, may help to identify the individual bands that have also been big players in the scene.

As we mentioned, we did not come across many women who were significantly involved in the Oxford music scene. Darren Grem mentioned Kate Teague as a potential lead; however, our second interview did not identify many women community members by name. Likewise, the news articles we found about various changes to Oxford’s music scene did not interview women within the community. This left us with the question, where are the women within the Oxford music scene? Are women participating in music-making in Oxford? Or, if they are not taking on these roles, why not? We hope that future scholars of Oxford’s music scene will take on an analytical lens that considers how gender affects opportunities for musicians, venue successes and failures, and the town’s, possibly, male-centered music culture.

Subcultures and, sometimes, countercultures, are often progenitors of local music scenes. Our precursory historiography indicates that Oxford was, at times, a generous host to such cultures. Venues such as the Hoka, which pushed foreign films and the occasional pornographic tape, and Cats Purring Dude Ranch, a large communal living space/venue still hold notoriety in Oxford’s lore, highlighting their impacts on the music scene. Both places are fondly remembered as places where one could go be one’s self and catch a live show (it is important to note we did come across instances hinting at gender discrimination at the Dude Ranch, potentially creating its own vortex to be explored, as these characteristics of a subculture would inevitably seep into the music scene it promotes). With the shuttering of the Dude Ranch in 2016, Oxford is currently left without a go-to countercultural music space.“Just being there and knowing ‘This isn’t going to be here.’ Just kind of soaking it in and thinking about the history. I don’t know, just the enormous amount of bands that had come through, or artists that had come through … It’s just a really unique experience,” McDonald recollected about one of her last visits to the Dude Ranch before it closed. 

There has been a slight rise in Do-It-Yourself venues, such as the Rose Room, which are homes converted on one night into a performance and party space. However, the scope of Oxford’s current underground scene seems not only smaller, but more out-of-sight and less impactful on the surrounding community.

“...that kind of indie/underground scene, I can’t speak to in terms of direct experience, but ...individuals in town that you can talk to that have been in town for 30 and 40 years have noted that there’ve been ebbs and flows to that kind of scene...but I’ve heard from them that they haven’t seen it this bad. In the sense that, it’s really different than it maybe was 10 or 20 years ago,” says Grem. “And that’s unfortunate because I think underground scenes really matter for creating kind of cultural vibrancy and richness of a town and a cultural critique of how a town likes to see itself which Oxford is definitely a town that is ridiculously full of itself [laughs] like ridiculously - really full of itself. And that runs counter to it. And if you don’t have that, then that’s a real problem...that has happened really quickly just in the past two, two and a half years ago.”

If, indeed, a healthy underground culture is a vital ingredient to a music scene, then we must ask if the current dearth is due to a confluence of social forces, economic forces, and political forces which would, in turn, have a direct impact on Oxford’s reputation and reality as a music-friendly city."

 

[1] "Why ASCAP Licenses Bars, Restaurants and Music Venues." www.ascap.com. Accessed April 25, 2018. https://www.ascap.com/help/ascap-licensing/why-ascap-licenses-bars-restaurants-music-venues.

[2] https://statisticalatlas.com/place/Mississippi/Oxford/Race-and-Ethnicity

[3] Miller, Mary Margaret. Interview with Lee Morgan. May 21, 2007.

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